Wilco @ Hollywood Bowl, September 30, 2012

For whatever reason, Wilco has been saddled with a long running cultural joke pigeonholing their fans–male, white, nerdy, liberal, hipster, yuppie, or some combination thereof, often clad in dark rimmed eyeglasses and plaid cowboy shirts. (Wilco + “white people” nets 36,000 Google hits, the first of which is ) Look, is there some truth in the stereotype? Sure. Does it have anything to do with the band and the music they make? Not in the least. These days the joke’s made often enough out of self awareness by the very people that fit the bill, so it’s been subverted and embraced. But whatever the expectation of a “Wilco crowd” might be, the Bowl attracts a nicely mixed crowd for these shows, so tonight’s far from a homogenous scene, a nice mix beyond just the diehard fans. But one senses that among the longtime fans in attendance there’s some sense of satisfaction that just maybe they helped get the band to this stage, their support over the years culminating in this big moment. So there’s a bit of a celebratory vibe in the air–“We did it! We got Wilco to the Hollywood Bowl!” Throw in the B.Y.O.B. policy and some absurdly warm weather for a late September and you have the makings of a real nice Sunday evening.

As for the performance, the band was solid and steady, the six gents alternating easily between heavy and delicate, turning up the fire and rising to the bigness of the occasion at points. Anyone who’s seen them knows their bar for the live show is already pretty high, so there isn’t really any need for them to do much extra for the occasion of the Bowl. Veterans at this game, they didn’t seem at all fazed by the legacy of the Bowl, playing free and loose right out of the gate. Tweedy, affable and bemused tonight, under a hat and buttoned-up denim all night, was chatty here and there. He recalled opening for R.E.M. here back in ’03, the name check of that since-deceased legendary band lets a little elephant in the room as to the question who will fill their shoes. Standouts tunes were Impossible Germany (Nels Cline’s bonkers solo making a serious case that Fender needs to give him a signature model–there’s actually Facebook page); Jesus, Etc. (a fun sing-a-long with the crowd); Misunderstood; and the upbeat 1-2 punch closing encore of oldies Hoodoo Voodoo and Outtasite.

The crowd was engaged and appreciative, pockets of superfans mixed with more casual onlookers. Section E was a wee bit too sedate through the first few songs, as if watching a movie, and the guy next to me was really going to town on a rotisserie chickens, so I slipped down to a box aisle where people standing and at leas doing a bit of that awkward sway-dancing. From closer range, the show was much more immediate and packed more punch. Just one of the quirks of a rock show at the Bowl, less to do with the band than the design of the venue.

Wandering through their back catalog for 25 songs in just under 2 hours–heavy on YHF and the last LP, The Whole Love, as expected, sadly not one tune from the excellent Wilco (The Album)–one thing in particular that strikes is the sheer range of the material. Compact tidy tunes, expansive jams (though we got the shorter acoustic version of Spiders tonight), piano ballads, a bit of country, a bit of soul, acoustic strummers and monster electric riffs. They’ve carved out a fairly unique territory in the landscape–a band that can go mellow or go heavy with equal ease, at home in both traditional and experimental modes. Really, rolling up on 20 years at this game, they’re one of our treasures.

Check out OC Register & Stereogum for some photos for the show if you like. Or some shots from their Los Angeles Theatre show earlier this year here.


01 – Dawned On Me
02 – War On War
03 – I Might
04 – Sunken Treasure
05 – Spiders (Kidsmoke) [acoustic version]
06 – Impossible Germany
07 – Born Alone
08 – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
09 – Art of Almost
10 – Misunderstood
11 – Jesus, Etc.
12 – Handshake Drugs
13 – Whole Love
14 – Hate It Here
15 – Box Full of Letters
16 – I’m Always In Love
17 – Hummingbird
18 – Shot in the Arm

19 – Ashes of American Flags
20 – California Stars
21 – Walken
22 – Heavy Metal Drummer
23 – I’m the Man Who Loves You

24 – Hoodoo Voodoo
25 – Outtasite (Outta Mind)

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